90: What Our Habits Tell Us: Habit Audits (Part 1)

If you want to approach your life with more intentionality, one of the best ways to do this is to perform a habit audit. A habit audit is the process of looking at your habits, noticing what they tell you, and deciding which ones are serving you, and which ones you want to replace with new ones.

Habit audits help you gain crucial awareness of how your thoughts and actions are forming your experience of your life. So in this two-part series, I’m showing you how to start auditing your habits and how to analyze the findings of your habit audit in the most meaningful way, so you can begin shaping your next steps.

If you are ready to develop awareness around your habits and start changing them, don’t miss this episode. I share more about what a habit audit is, why it’s useful, and how to start performing a habit audit in your own life. 

Habits on Purpose with Kristi Angevine, MD | What Our Habits Tell Us: Habit Audits (Part 1)

Many of us didn’t grow up as people who identify as anxious. We see extreme examples of anxiety and we don’t relate, so we just assume we don’t experience anxiety. But the truth is, there are some more subtle signs that point toward an anxious mind, and that’s what we’re discussing in today’s episode.

Habits on Purpose with Kristi Angevine, MD | What Our Habits Tell Us: Habit Audits (Part 1)

Habit audits help you gain crucial awareness of how your thoughts and actions are forming your experience of your life. So in this two-part series, I’m showing you how to start auditing your habits and how to analyze the findings of your habit audit in the most meaningful way, so you can begin shaping your next steps.

If you are ready to develop awareness around your habits and start changing them, don’t miss this episode. I share more about what a habit audit is, why it’s useful, and how to start performing a habit audit in your own life. 

If you’re interested in connecting with me for private coaching, I do keep a small panel of private clients and I love helping them explore their minds and explore their habits so they can make real shifts in their lives. To get more information, click here!

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • The stealthy habits that fly under the radar.
  • How a habit audit helps increase awareness of your habits, thought patterns, and emotional responses.
  • Why doing a habit audit doesn’t have to be complicated.
  • How our habits become spontaneous and start happening on autopilot.
  • Some tips for making your habit audit simple and doable.
  • How to start your habit audit and gain valuable insight into your experience of life.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Powerful Takeaways:

03:48 “One of the things we’re so often not aware of are some of our more stealthy habits.”

04:40 “A habit audit is the process that you use for cataloging your mental, emotional, and behavioral habits.”

06:43 “Once you notice how often you do something, then you can start getting curious about it.”

09:37 “A habit audit is a three-step process.”

15:51 “I’m going to list off some examples of common stealthy habits that we sometimes don’t notice.”

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Related Episodes:

Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Episode #90. I’m your host, Kristi Angevine. Today's episode is about doing a habit audit, so that you can start noticing what so often goes on under the radar. A habit audit builds the foundation for increased awareness and practical habit change. This is part one of a two part series. So, let's get started.

Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits that give more than they take. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do. And now, here's your host, Physician, and Master Certified Life Coach, Kristi Angevine.

Hello, hello, everyone. 90 episodes! 90 episodes means 90 weeks of sharing episodes. I'm a little bit blown away by the fact that it's almost been two years, it’s almost been 100 episodes since I started.

I recently did a check on the download stats to see how many times the podcast has been downloaded, and so far, it's been downloaded about 86,000 times. Now, the reason why this download number is important is that it's a metric, albeit an imperfect metric, but it's a metric that shows how many people know about and actually listen to the podcast.

The reason this matters is because at the heart of why I do this podcast is my deep belief in the benefit of coaching, and in the highly practical tools and concepts that are intended and helpful for changing your life. I want as many people as possible to understand themselves better and to know exactly how to be intentional, instead of feeling battered around and reactionary all the time.

The way I see it, the more people who hear this podcast, the more people who will have self-understanding. The more people who understand why they think and feel and act as they do, the better it will be for the world. And since we have so many challenges, so many tragedies, so many systemic environmental, cultural, political problems, we need everyone operating as best they can.

So, selfishly, I want as many people as possible feeling confident, living life in alignment with their core values, and having agency to go after their dreams. Because that's how we're going to model a new way of being for the next generation. That's how we're hopefully going to leave an inhabitable planet to the next generation.

That's a bit of a passion tangent about the importance of this podcast and why I see the growth of the audience as so meaningful. If you want to help me spread the word, if you like what you hear and like what to learn on this podcast, please share it with a friend. And, if you feel so moved after you listen to an episode, please leave a rating and review. It would mean more than you know.

Now, let's move on to today's topic, A Habit Audit. This is actually A Habit Audit part one. Next week will be part two of doing A Habit Audit. Today, I'm going to tell you what a habit audit is. A habit audit is a little bit of a tongue twister, I'm realizing.

But I'm going to tell you what one is, tell you why it's useful, and how you can start doing one. Then next week, I'm going to elaborate on how you analyze the findings in a way that's really meaningful and can shape your next steps.

So, as I talked about in Episode 88, all change must start with awareness. You literally cannot make real, lasting, and deep changes by skipping over awareness. One of the things that we so often are not aware of are some of our more stealthy habits. We often know and easily recognize when we're not in the habit of exercising, or we are in the habit of overeating or pressing snooze. But some of our habits aren't so obvious and they fly under the radar.

Today, I'm going to talk about some of these stealthier habits and how doing a habit audit is a way to increase your awareness of them and increase your awareness of your thought patterns, your emotional responses, and your internal and external behaviors that are not in your conscious awareness.

So, a habit audit may seem like a totally contrived, self-helpy, really soft exercise to do, but I assure you, it's actually a prerequisite to any real changes that you want to make. What the heck is a habit audit? A habit audit is simply what I call the process that you use for cataloging your mental, emotional, and behavioral habits.

Now, doing a habit audit is not necessarily an effortless undertaking, but there are ways to make it manageable and I'm going to explain it to you in a way that's going to make it really simple and really doable. Before I share how to do a habit audit, let's talk about why you should audit your habits. Why audit your habits when you generally already know them, right?

What I find so often is, we think we know ourselves but when we take an eyes wide open, objective, unfiltered view, we often find out that there is indeed a difference between what we're assuming and what we actually are doing. It's this difference that's really important to be aware of.

So, what's the worst case scenario of doing a habit audit? Well, the worst case scenario is that you spend time doing an exercise and you discover nothing new. Now, the likelihood of this is really low. But if this happened, this would simply mean that your current assessment of yourself, at least at this point in time, in this particular season of your life, is really accurate. So, that would be good data to have.

But in general, when you audit your habits you end up increasing your awareness in unforeseen and unexpected ways for all the things you are currently doing on autopilot. Let me give you two examples to illustrate what I mean.

Example one, you might find that you overthink things. You might not even realize that you overthink and ruminate, because it simply happens spontaneously, very organically, very naturally, and it just seems like par for the course. It's just what you naturally do based on your personality, and based on who you are.

Overthinking might simply be just like breathing, you don't think much about breathing until you purposely bring your attention to breathing. But once you notice how often you do something, then you can start getting curious about it.

With overthinking, once you notice how often you overthink, you might start considering really carefully what's the benefit of this? What's the utility of this? And when you have awareness of things, it opens the door to start questioning how come I'm overthinking? What's going on that makes this particular habit makes sense? What would help me overthink or ruminate less? So, that's overthinking.

Here's example number two. Another thing that you might notice when you do an audit of your habits, is that you habitually do something that's a downstream result of some other habit. Let me explain this. Say that as a highly empathetic, high achiever, you have a tendency to people please.

Because you do this, you end up overextending at your own expense and piling too many things onto your to-do list. Subsequently, you have a tendency to try to squish too many things into a short period of time. Then, because you're always short on time, you end up bringing work home; either literally or mentally.

When this happens, you end up beating yourself up for not more effectively using your time, and you simultaneously come home so frazzled that you resent your family for the time that they want from you. You might not notice that you're doing any of these things. All you notice is that you had a really full day, it felt disastrous, you feel irritable, and you feel thin skinned.

But when you do a habit audit, what you might notice is that you're habitually short tempered and snippy with your kids. You might notice that you get irritable with your spouse over benign questions. You might observe that you launch into over explaining your perspective to justify your annoyance with whatever you're annoyed by. You might notice that you're complaining a lot.

In this way, doing an audit of your habits will reveal things like snappiness, over explaining, and complaining. These things become your cue to wonder, what's creating an experience where it's easy for me to be snippy? What's going on before I start over explaining?

And when you open up this line of inquiry, it can lead you to realize that behind your snappiness, behind your resent, behind you're trying to do too much in too little time, is simply the habit of overextending related to people pleasing and putting yourself last.

Isn't it fascinating that by looking at some of your behaviors you can find out what's actually at the heart of them? That's what's possible for you when you do an audit of your habits. Doing an audit removes a veil, so to speak, and helps you see more objectively what often flies under the radar. So, I hope that this sells you on the benefit of doing an audit of your habits.

Let's talk about how you do this. To do an audit is a three-step process. Step one, document your habits. Step two, play investigator and look for patterns. Step three, do a deeper dive so you can dig into the beliefs that are behind the habits in the first place.

Today I'm going to cover step one, and next week, I'm going to pick up and describe how to do step two and step three. This way, you'll have time to start your audit, and then let the observations that you have written down sink in. Then, next week, I'll tell you exactly what to do with it.

So, let's talk about step one, documenting your habits. First, I'm going to tell you the nuts and bolts, and then I'm going to tell you exactly what you're looking for and how to notice the things that you're going to document.

The nuts and bolts are, you're literally going to make a list. By make a list, I mean you are going to document things that you do and things that you notice. You can do this in a retrospective manner, where you look back on your day. Or you could do an in the moment documentation.

Your documentation of what you're doing does not have to be perfect. No one is checking behind you to see if you got it just right, if you're 100% accurate, if you forgot one, or if you double documented something. You're documenting just for you to get a general idea of habits that you may not usually notice.

I recommend that you do your documentation for at least three days. But you can do a snapshot of one day, or even half a day. Or you can extend it to a full week if you want to capture a different variety of days, like work days or off days. But I find that three days is a really nice number to get a good, generalizable sense of what's going on.

Now, I don't have a preference if you do it by voice memo, or if you do it in an electronic document or do it on a paper document. The one thing that is essential is that you get it documented outside of you. You don't just do a mental list. Getting it outside of you gives you a degree of objectivity and space that helps you with perspective.

So, what exactly are you looking for, and how the heck do you notice it? Let me start with when you're doing this. To do the documentation, you need to set specific times to check in. Even though you can do this all retrospectively, I think it's more effective if you do some in the present moment noticing. And so, I recommend that you set up a minimum of about six times per day where you're going to check in on what you're doing.

You can do this once when you wake up. Once on your commute, either to and or from work. You can do it once you arrive at work, once mid-day, maybe at lunch, once at the end of the day, and then one other random time. You could do it when you happen to have a little break. When you are walking up the stairs, when you're on the elevator, when you are brushing your teeth, waiting for your coffee to brew. Just pick six times per day that you are going to do a brief habit check in.

When you do this check in, what are you looking for? Well, there are three things you want to check in and notice: What are you feeling? What are you thinking? And what are you doing? By what are you doing, I mean what would a camera pick up on you doing? And what are you doing internally in your mind?

Let's talk about what this might look like in reality. So, you decide you're going to do a check-in in the morning. You wake up in the morning, you're lying in bed, and you ask yourself, “What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What am I doing?” The order of feeling, thinking, doing, is not relevant. You could do it in whatever order you'd like to ask yourself that.

You might notice that you wake up feeling this heavy guilt bordering on a bit of overwhelm. You might notice that you're thinking, “I'm so behind.” And then you reflect on what you're doing. Or what you're doing, is you're lying in bed running a mental to-do list.

Then, when you get up, you end up adding things to your list, reviewing the list, and wondering, “When will I get it all done?” Then, while you're sitting there, you hear somebody get up and internally you groan and grimace, and you just wish that you had a few more minutes before anybody else woke up and you had to dive into the activities of the morning.

Then you notice that you think, “What a bad mom, what a bad parent, who doesn't want to see their kids in the morning.” Then you feel guilt and you beat yourself up. Notice how, in that description, there were a lot of emotions, a lot of behaviors, as well as several thoughts.

Now, let me give you another example of what this might look like. Say you do a midday check in. You're in the middle of your work day, and you notice that you're thinking about how the morning surgery went. You notice that you're worrying about what might happen overnight. And what, whoever's on call that night, will think of you if they get a phone call about the patient.

Your emotions are, that you feel pessimistic, discouraged, and generally kind of heavy. When it comes to what you're doing, you notice that you're distracted. You're less present in the present moment. You're not really listening. You're not paying attention to those around you. Your mind is in the past, as well as in the future.

So, when you're doing a check in, you simply want to ask: What am I feeling? What am I doing? What am I thinking? When I do this, I really like to keep things in categories. So, I will do a line for “waking up.” These are my thoughts, my feelings, my actions. Commute: Thoughts, feelings, actions. Arrive at work: Feelings, actions, thoughts. Get to the meeting: Actions, thoughts, feelings. Lunchtime: Thoughts, feelings, actions.

I keep them organized in a way, that when I look back on them, I can sort of understand what's going on. If you just like to be a little bit more organic and just write them all together, that's also fine.

Now, let's just say that you think you're going to do better if you choose from a list, and maybe you find it a little easier to kind of know what habits you're looking for. Well, if that is you, I've got you covered. I'm going to list off some of the examples of common, stealthy habits that we sometimes don't notice.

You can literally just take what I say that resonates with you, type them into the note section of your phone, copy/paste them into a document, or write them down. Then, when you do your check-ins, you can just do little check marks to show which of them you have on which days, on which check-ins.

The other thing you can do is you can just check out the show notes and the transcription. You can simply copy/paste what I'm going to share with you here, so that you have a variety of stealthy habits to choose from as you do your audit.

So, let's start with the external and internal behaviors. Now, as you listen to these, please know none of these behaviors are problematic. They're not inherently bad. They're just things that people do. So, if you recognize that you do these things, welcome to being human. They are not signs that you're a screw up.

Here are some of the internal and external behaviors that I want you to be on the lookout for: Ruminating, over analyzing, analysis paralysis, comparison, and this can be comparison negatively or comparison positively. Where you compare yourself to someone else in a way where you seem unfavorable relative to them, or you find yourself to be more favorable compared to someone. It doesn't matter.

Imagining the worst case scenarios without coming up with a practical plan for how you would deal in said worst case scenario. Beating yourself up, ignoring your anger, resisting your feelings, judging your thoughts, telling yourself there's something wrong with you.

Procrastination, rushing around, daydreaming as an escape from your present reality. Fantasizing about the perfect future where everything is figured out. Numbing or buffering with food, screens, alcohol, exercise, shopping, tidying, podcast reading, extra personal development.

Making grand plans that you don't follow through on. Running your mental to-do lists compulsively. Making to-do lists for your to-do lists. Being snippy, being curt, yelling, not listening, withdrawing, complaining, believing you’re a failure, blaming other people, all-or-none thinking, replaying events from earlier in the day over and over and over.

Making self-deprecating comments. Struggling to take compliments. Worrying, should-ing all over yourself, Saying, “I should have done this. I should have done that. I should do this.” Jumping to conclusions. People pleasing, not setting boundaries, struggling setting boundaries, setting boundaries but not following through on those boundaries.

Not speaking up when you wish you would. Minimizing actual stressors in your life. This looks like whitewashing difficulties, saying, “Oh it's fine. It's totally fine,” when it's actually not fine. Dismissing wins, overextending, saying yes when you want to say no. And personalizing and taking things personally.

Now, that's a lot of stuff that might be energy draining and soul sucking, in terms of how you feel when you do a lot of it. But I also want you to keep on your radar nourishing patterns, nourishing habits that you really enjoy.

Like, acknowledging progress, objectively assessing, and evaluating things. Giving yourself self-compassion, following through on realistic plans. Carving out time for yourself, allowing your emotions, meeting yourself where you are and not making yourself wrong.

Making decisions and executing, focusing on a next best thing, asking questions, deeply listening to yourself, and deeply listening to others. Resting when you're tired, being present in the present moment.

Now, when you're doing your habit audit, remember, you're looking for things that you do internally and externally. You're also looking for your emotions, and you're looking for things that you're thinking. So, as far as feelings that you habitually have, the range of emotions that you might notice can run the entire spectrum.

When you're doing this, you don't have to say anything other than, “I feel good, I feel bad, I feel heavy, I feel light.” But it can be helpful to have a general sense of the particular emotions. To get you started, I'm going to give you some examples of what you might notice.

Overwhelm, confusion, irritation, agitation, annoyance, frustration, anger, resentment, indignation, rage, sadness, grief, pessimism, optimism, anxiety, worry, inadequacy, discouragement, guilt, contentment, peace, at ease, happiness, joy, gratitude, yearning, craving, love, determination, focus, courage, fear, clarity, connection, confidence, curiosity.

We could spend three days going over all sorts of different words for the emotions that humans experience, but that gives you a general sense of some of the things that you might pick up on.

Now, when it comes to your thinking, I'm going to leave it to you to notice your own thinking. But this is what I'm going to say about it. My advice is that you write down exactly the words that you hear in your mind. Most of our thoughts are subconscious, they don't make it up to our conscious language centers.

If we say, “What am I thinking?” We might just go, “Nothing, I'm not thinking anything. There's nothing there.” So, sometimes when we reflect on our thinking, if we're not used to reflecting on the words that are in our mind, what we notice might be very simplistic phrases that kind of don't make sense. They might actually seem a little bit childlike.

I'm going to encourage you, no matter what thoughts you notice, even if they're phrases, even if they sound silly, even if they sound harsh, just write them down. I can't tell you how many clients I have that will tell me that their thoughts seem too childish, too petty, too mean. And they don't want to even write them down, just because there's something about writing down these things that seem either petty or childlike or silly or simplistic, that it's an acknowledgment of something being wrong.

So, when you hear these thoughts 100 or 1,000 times a day, but you don't really notice them because they're sort of in the background, that's when you may not be aware of why you're feeling what you're feeling. This is your chance to get them out, to represent them on paper.

Even though it might seem silly to write down things like, “Gosh, you're such a loser, you dumb-ass,” those simple phrases you hear in your mind, that you might hear 50 to 100 times a day, those things, they're having an impact. And writing them down is the first step to being able to understand what's present, and then ultimately to change it.

So, that is step one, for the documentation part of doing an audit of your habits. Let me give you a quick recap. Documentation is simply writing down what you think, what you feel, what you're doing internally, and what you're doing in your mind. I recommend that you do this about six times a day.

You can do it retrospectively. But ideally, you do it in the moment. I recommend you do this for about three days. You need to keep it simple. Don't overthink it. Don't let it take too much time. Find this simple way where you just write it down on a sheet of paper, or you document it in your phone.

Then, I want you to tune in next week for what to do with all this newly found information. If you have questions, you just email me anytime. Hello@habitsonpurpose.com or on Facebook. If you're on Facebook, you can join the Habits On Purpose Facebook group, and I will personally walk you through any and all questions. Whatever you want to learn more about.

Enjoy your week. Have fun playing the role of researcher, data collector, and auditor, while you go through your habits. I will see you next week in part two for Episode 91. Bye for now.

Would you like to start exploring your own thought patterns and your own beliefs about yourself in the world? Are you at a point in your life where you're really ready to be deliberate with your approach to life and deliberate with your habits? If so, I would love to connect.

I would love to help you with the exploration and the application of the concepts that I teach. I keep a small private practice panel, and if you're interested in private one-on-one coaching, you can learn more about if we're a match by going to habits on HabitsOnPurpose.com/private.

Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit HabitsOnPurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.

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